After The New Yorker profiled the story of Carl Deal and Tia Lessin's loss of a grant for their Sundance competition title "Citizen Koch" from public television producers ITVS, the filmmakers received an outpouring of support. The filmmakers, who made the stellar Katrina doc "Trouble the Water," were working with ITVS on their film until ITVS pulled out of the project, presumably because the title called out a (now former) public television patron, David Koch, of the wealthy conservative Koch brothers.
After the article ran, Lessin told Indiewire, "We had a beautiful response from people in the indie film community who were just heartbroken at what happened and wanted to throw in and support us in any way they could. There was empathy and appreciation. We spoke about what happened publicly at some expense to ourselves. Not only for this film, but I don't think [ITVS] will be knocking down our door to fund our next film. It impacted all filmmakers who are dealing with public television for broadcast and support."
"Citizen Koch" covers the influence that money has been able to buy in politics since the famed Citizens United Supreme Court ruling, especially in the Wisconsin campaign against collective bargaining by unionized state employees led by Governor Scott Walker, who was bankrolled by corporate funds from out of the state.
Though their $75,000 Kickstarter goal was met in the campaign's first few days, Deal and Lessin said that they need about $150,000 to finish the film. The Kickstarter campaign is currently at $118,000.
Since the New Yorker article ran, petitions sprang up on Change.org, MoveOn.org, Credo and more. The filmmakers received support from the Working Families Party in New York and their union, the Writers Guild of America - East.
As Kickstarter is constantly being compared to funding from the National Endowment for the Arts (after its co-founders have been mentioning, as in this interview and this discussion), a series of complicated conversations have been occurring around public support of the arts: what kinds of projects should public funds and public television be supporting and how can we stop the interests of a few from presenting certain voices from circulating?
The support for "Citizen Koch" was encouraged by people like Michael Moore, with whom Deal and Lessin co-produced "Capitalism: A Love Story" and "Fahrenheit 9/11."
Check out Deal and Lessin's Kickstarter campaign for "Citizen Koch" here, and check out the trailer and some comments from donors below:
“My 2013 pledge donation to PBS went here instead.”
“I can't tell you how excited I am to see this on Kickstarter. No matter if I agree or disagree with the message, it's outrageous and frustrating that billionaires can silence anyone they want. Looking forward to supporting in the next few days!”
"The people with all the money don't get to make all the rules. I am grateful for the opportunity to stand up--to stand together--in a community of people to make sure that this important story is told. Thank you Carl and Tia for making this film, and for inviting all of us to participate in getting it before the public. This is the best $ I'll spend all month."